Prev: Chapter 5: Exploration
Interaction scenarios cover any situation in which the PCs are engaged in conflict-based discussion with another party. Trivial conversations and rumormongering do not require running a scenario. Rather, the scenarios are used when there is a chance of success or failure with diverging consequences for each. Example situations can include trying to convince someone else to do something or change their mind, attempting to lie or trick and get away with it, or making use of threats or intimidation to coerce. Note that only the players are permitted to use interaction scenarios to convince or coerce others; these scenarios cannot be used the other way around to force players to behave in a manner that is against their will.
As with the other two scenarios, interaction also has a position-tracking map, here called the Stage. Unlike the combat and exploration maps, however, the Stage is more abstract. It's made up of a series of positions often arranged in a one-dimensional manner. Positions generally exist to track who has whose attention or how various sub-conversations happen within the overall group dynamics; this may or may not involve differing physical locations.
As with the other systems, standard Actions can only be played against targets in your occupied position. Ranged Actions can affect targets in other positions based on the Range text, just as in combat; however, unlike combat, you can play Ranged Actions even if there are enemies in your occupied position. Movement is typically simple, with default speeds of 1 allowing crossing into an adjacent position, although Charisma adds an extra wrinkle.
Whenever an entity attempts to Move from one position to another, one enemy in the original occupied position can attempt to stop the movement with Charisma. Since the interaction Stage is abstract, this represents a character using their wit or force of personality to try to maintain a hold on another character's attention.
Whenever an entity declares an attempt to block the movement, the moving entity and the blocking entity each make a Charisma roll. Ties are in favor of the moving entity. If the moving entity wins, the movement completes without further issue. If the blocking entity wins, the movement is canceled and lost. Charisma entries are considered Skill Dice.
Unless otherwise specified, only one entity can block an individual Move attempt. If multiple players want to block a single enemy's movement and cannot agree on who should get the opportunity, the DM may choose for them. If an entity is able to make multiple Move attempts in a single round, each of those Moves may be blocked individually by the same or by differing enemies. If an entity is able to pass through multiple positions as part of a single Move, any one entity in either the starting position or any positions passed through may attempt to block the movement with Charisma rolls. If the movement is blocked, the entity stops in the position where the blocking occurred.
The Debate Axis models how convincing the PCs have been thus far. One end of the axis marks the victory position, while the opposite end marks the defeat condition. The central point is neutral, representing an argument that is neither convincing nor unconvincing and is commonly the starting point in such scenarios.
The axis consists of a typical number line, with a 0 in the middle, positive numbers in one direction (the victory direction), and negative numbers in the opposite direction (the defeat direction). The length of the Debate Axis is typically equivalent to 2 + the number of PCs in either direction. So, if there are four players at the table (not including the DM), then the Debate Axis will go from -6 (defeat) to +6 (victory) in most scenarios. Each number position is represented by a notch.
The current position on the axis is tracked by a special token called the Debate Counter. Abilities that cause movement along the axis will specify movement of the Debate Counter. If the ability says to advance the Debate Counter a number of notches toward victory, then you always move the token in the positive direction, even if it's an Opponent that is moving the token. Likewise, if the ability says to advance the Debate Counter a number of notches toward defeat, then you always move the token in the negative direction, even if it's a PC that caused the token movement. The terms are precise, not relative to the actor.
For example, assume the Debate Counter is at the +2 position. An Opponent uses an ability that causes the Debate Counter to advance one notch toward victory. The Debate Counter should move to the +3 position.
Hostile Actions played against allies reverse any listed movement of the Debate Counter. Reactions played by the target can only affect the Debate Counter if the attacking ally was forced to play the Action by an enemy.
Each interaction scenario has its own conditions for success or failure. Common success conditions include reducing all the opponents' WP to 0 or reaching the maximum position on the Debate Axis. Common failure conditions include having all PC WP reduced to 0 or reaching the minimum position on the Debate Axis.
In addition to these requirements, interaction scenarios often provide a round limit, representing how much the NPCs are willing to listen to the PCs. The scenario ends at the end of the final round provided in the limit; for example, if the round limit is 5, then at the end of the fifth round, the scenario ends. Some scenarios consider the round limit to be a failure condition if it is reached. Others require an evaluation of the Debate Axis; for example, if the Debate Counter is on the positive side of the axis at the end of the scenario, then it's victory, while a 0 or negative position would represent failure.
Scenarios may branch to different outcomes depending on, for example, whether you won with the Debate Axis or whether you won with WP reduction. There can even be degrees of success or failure depending on just how far the Debate Counter advanced.
The success and failure conditions are not hidden, so make sure you are aware of them when planning your approach in interaction scenarios. This will help you prioritize which abilities to use and which opponent to target.
Each Reaction and hostile Action in interaction includes a Trait on the card or entry. Narratively speaking, Traits define the type of conversational approach taken by the play. Trait types include Aggressive, Charming, Comical, and Persuasive.
Because the Traits are rather vague, and Actions and Reactions have a bit of flavor overlap in terms of arguably including bits of multiple Traits, these classifications should not be used to restrict roleplaying. It's fine to use them as a starting point or inspiration, but individual roleplay should be largely unhindered by such things.
Traits have no inherent mechanical function. However, many abilities and effects trigger off of or otherwise function in congruence with Traits. Professions tend to focus on one or two Traits, which directs players who have chosen those roles to particular pieces of Gear that can provide situational bonuses. It's generally a good idea for a party to have multiple specializations, as many Opponents have situational strengths or weaknesses against specific Traits.
Rarely, it may be possible to play a Reaction or hostile Action in interaction that lacks a Trait. This is not a problem, and a Trait does not need to be ad-hoc assigned to the play. For example, if the play is an Action, and an enemy Reaction gets a benefit whenever the target plays an Action with a certain Trait, such an Action would never trigger that benefit. On the other hand, if the Reaction gets a benefit whenever the target plays an Action that is any Trait other than a specific one, then the Action would always trigger that benefit.
Non-hostile Actions lack Traits and do not interact with Trait mechanics, much like the preceding example.
While how to interpret various mechanics in the narrative story is up to each individual group, this section includes some general advice on how things are intended to function, especially in stranger circumstances.
First, WP specifically models an entity's willingness to continue to try to argue, talk down, resist befriending, or otherwise protest things. As such, damage is, quite generally, reducing an enemy's willingness to engage in antagonistic conversation. This may be done through building relationships and goodwill, scaring others into acquiescing, or even annoying people into just letting you have your way. The damage provided by each individual Action, Reaction, and other effect should therefore be interpreted uniquely as a part of the general flow of conversation and the distinct personalities involved.
All of that is separate from the Round Limit, which basically represents how much time you have to try to get your way before either the opposing party cements their views or chooses to disengage from the conversation entirely. An Opponent that's defeated may still be engaged in the conversation from a listening perspective; they're just not contributing anything particularly useful any longer.
Opposed Charisma rolls reflect grabbing and holding someone's attention (usually, but not always, intentionally). This can be direct through the use of pointed words or even physical actions (though not quite to the level of a physical altercation); it could involve general allure; or it could include magical compulsions and illusions. Use whatever fits best for your story and characters.
Sometimes, interaction scenarios are used to portray mental battles of will. This usually happens when powerful magics are involved. It may involve charms and illusions, direct attempts at mental control, and even soul-draining efforts from powerful villains or objects.
In such scenarios, everyone involved will need to put in a little extra effort to reinterpret their plays within the proper context. When trying to resist evil mind-control, an Action that suggests friendly conversational words might be reinterpreted as an effort to manipulate or subvert the magic, while a damage-focused hateful glare play might be read as using anger as a source of inner strength to resist the dark spells.
This may be a fairly difficult thing to do if you're new to RPGs. In this case, seek assistance from veterans at the table. If none exist, the DM should probably avoid running this kind of scenario until everyone gets more comfortable with card interpretations and shared storytelling.